ISPs have a moral obligation to help customers through the cost of living crisis, the regulator said.
More and more families are struggling with their internet bills, which are often associated with inflation and have increased this year. Along with everything else.
Lindsey Fussell, director of Ofcom’s group for networks and communications, told Sky News they knew there were people across the country struggle with their bills at the moment.
“It’s important that broadband and mobile services are affordable,” she said. “Especially for those who are really struggling with their finances at the moment, every bill can become a problem.
“That’s why we encourage companies to make so-called social tariffs available. These are favorable offers for people in particularly difficult financial circumstances.
“And we certainly believe that telcos really have a moral imperative to make these types of offers available and make sure people take notice so they can take advantage of the best possible deal.”
ISPs have worked with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to help customers amid the cost of living crisis and have pledged to help customers who can no longer afford their bills.
But many families turn to databases: like a blackboard, but with coupons or SIM cards for mobile internet data, making it easier for people to access the internet.
The Good Things Foundation is behind the idea.
Chief Executive Helen Milner told Sky News the charity is struggling to keep up with demand.
She said: “With the cost of living, the price of broadband, be it fixed or mobile, is becoming such an issue.
“We can’t really roll [our data bank service] out quickly enough – the need is so great.”
She said while internet access has improved in recent years, the so-called “digital divide” between those who can get online and those who can’t is widening.
“People who are left behind are always left behind,” she said. “And it’s not uncommon for the people who suffer and are locked out of using the Internet to be the people who are struggling financially.”
Citizen Advice warned that more than two million people defaulted on their bills last year.
This will probably get worse.
As food and fuel become more expensive, this drives up the official measure of inflation: the consumer price index (CPI).
And that, in turn, drives up the cost of things like internet and cellphone contracts, which are linked to the CPI and rise every year in line with inflation.
That hasn’t been a problem in recent years while inflation has been below the Bank of England’s 2% target, but now that inflation could peak at 11% this year, it’s suddenly acute.
And it comes at a time when we’re relying on the internet more than ever.
Since the pandemic, much of our lives—our jobs, schooling, and healthcare—have moved online.
If you can’t get online, you often can’t apply for jobs, do your homework, receive benefits, or speak to a family doctor.
It’s a must, just like gas and electricity, says Uswitch.com telecoms expert Ernest Doku.
He said they saw an influx of people seeking advice over mounting bills.
“Especially in the last year, we’ve seen prices go up,” he said. “Particularly mid-term price hikes associated with inflation. These are the prices that have really irked consumers.
“Broadband has become so important to so many that prices are rising and consumers are being pushed out of the broadband market. It’s not feasible that they could do without it.”
As with so many aspects of this livelihood crisis, things are unlikely to get any better any time soon.
In the meantime, customers are advised to speak to their provider if they are having difficulties and seek assistance getting started on a social plan or switching to a cheaper plan.
ISPs have a ‘moral obligation’ to help customers through the cost-of-living crisis | UK News
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